Friday, 21 November 2014

National Short Story Week: Last Days, Lost Ways

This week is National Short Story Week in the UK - a time to celebrate short fiction, one of the most challenging and respected of literary art forms, though not one of the most lucrative.  Since commercial publishers turned their backs on the short story a couple of decades ago, it has been kept alive in little poetry magazines and boutique literary presses - usually surviving on Arts Council Grants. A few years ago its existence was considered to  be under such threat the Arts Council mounted a huge online campaign called 'Save Our Short Story'. Extinction seemed imminent.  But there are recent signs of a revival - mainly because it has been flourishing underground in the 'Indie' sector of publishing.



The ability to Self, or Indie, publish via Amazon, Lulu, Lightning Source, Smash Words and other paperback and E-publishing platforms, has left authors free to experiment with the short form - if you aren't going to be paid for it anyway, why not have fun?   Flash fiction, novels for mobile phones, Tweet Fiction - it's all out there.  Writers are sharing them on Wattpad, blogging them, Tweeting them and getting them into every sort of print, ink or digital.  There have been some notable successes - Northern author Avril Joy (above) was one of the first Indie authors to win the coveted Costa Prize with her story Millie and Bird. 


A couple of weeks ago, Authors Electric author Alice Jolly won the Royal Society of Literature's prestigious V.S. Pritchett short story award (judged by Margaret Drabble) with her story Ray the Rottweiler. Both authors have been forced into the Indie publishing sector because commercial publishers have rejected their work.



The last couple of weeks has also seen the launch of one of the first Indie short story collections, curated and published by the Awesome Indies collective, based in Australia.  Last Days, Lost Ways includes authors from all over the world and covers the whole spectrum of fiction genres - fantasy, speculative, historical, autobiographical, crime and flash. It's a serendipity mix - readers won't like every story, but everyone will find something to wow them. I was lucky enough to get two stories accepted for the anthology - one contemporary, one historical, so I have to declare an interest!  Stories I particularly liked included A Matter of Trust, creative non-fiction from American author Colleen Grimes, and Recipe for a Dinner Party where New Zealander Shauna Bickley cooks up a storm for her errant husband.


Some of the books I've enjoyed most lately have been short story collections.  One in particular stands out - by Irish author Nuala Ni Chonchuir - To the World of Men, Welcome.  A female author looks at the world with men's eyes and explores gender myths and stereotypes. The result is brilliant!



I also loved this one, Harvest, an Indie published collection of short-short and flash fiction from Kenyan American author Amanya Maloba.  As the title suggests, a lot of the stories are about food and our relationship with it.



Also recommended is a small press publication (if you like horror) of a short story by Elizabeth Stott 'Touch me with your cold, hard fingers'.   It's a limited edition difficult to get hold of, but her collection 'This Heat' is available through Amazon. 



And if you like short stories you'll love the little magazine FireWords  - crammed with interesting new fiction.



A couple more that might interest, including a Christmas short story collection just launched by Debbie Young (plus a shameless plug for my own Three and Other Stories!):





Debbie Young's Stocking Fillers, Just launched in time for Christmas




2 comments:

  1. Hi Kathleen, thank you so much for sharing my Christmas collection here. I'm putting National Short Story Week in my diary for next year!

    To misquote Mark Twain, I agree that the death of the short story has been greatly exaggerated. It's a format that is ideal for modern readers, who have such busy lives, but short stories and flash fiction are great for reading on phones and tablets while commuting to work. They provide complete, thought-provoking and satisfying tales at a single sitting.

    I also believe that those who claim they have no time to read (far too many people!) may be lured into reading longer works once they've enjoyed some flash fiction or short stories.

    My only problem with short stories is that I sometimes got to bed with a collection thinking "one story before I go to sleep" then end up reading late into the night, ploughing through a whole book of them!

    I've just downloaded your Three Tales (gorgeous cover pic) for my Kindle and am looking forward to reading it, once I've finished Harvest, already on my nightstand!

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  2. Thanks Debbie - I'm also a great fan of the short story. I love the 'snapshot' aspect of them - the challenge of the restricted frame and the opportunity to really experiment. There's such a lot to play with!

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